More than half of the U.S. coal mines operating in 2008 have since closed
The uptick in mine closures since 2008 has largely been driven by economics, and smaller, less profitable mines have been more susceptible to closures. Several factors dictate the profitability of mines, including the method used to extract the coal.
In the United States, decreasing demand for coal has contributed to lower coal production, which has fallen by more than one-third since peak production in 2008. As U.S. coal demand has declined, the number of active coal mines has decreased by more than half, from 1,435 mines in 2008 to 671 mines in 2017. As the U.S. market contracted, smaller, less efficient mines were the first to close, and most of the mine closures were in the Appalachian region.
Although underground mines had a larger percentage of closures from 2008 to 2017 (60% versus 49% of surfacemines), surface mines have seen larger declines in production, falling 39% compared with 24% for underground mines. Most coal regions contain a mix of both surface and underground mines, except for the Powder River Basin in southeast Montana and northeast Wyoming, where large surface mines account for more than 40% of total U.S. production.
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